JUNE/JULY 2005 | REGIONAL |
Firehouse In Merced
By Mike Long
Quenching the thirst for good beer in California's Central
Valley became much easier in April of 2004 with the opening
of the Firehouse brewery and restaurant. With veteran brewer
Mike Hall, formerly of Oakdale Brewing Company, at the helm,
Firehouse is off to a great start. On a seven-barrel JV Northwest
system, Mike and Assistant Brewer Matt McDougall, also of
Oakdale Brewing fame, are producing five brewery standards
and a bimonthly special.
They have the prerequisite light lager, El Bombero ("The
Fireman"), a very clean Mexican lager and the current
best-seller. Also on the list is Golden Bobcat Wheat, a traditional
German hefeweizen, and the second best-seller, Fire Engine
Red, a very drinkable, balanced amber/red ale.
Surprisingly, the pale is not a pale at all but a nicely
balanced floral West Coast IPA with great thirst-quenching
appeal. Consider a pint with the Honey Creole fish and chips
created by Chef Uriel Aguilar.
My personal favorite was the Black Rascal Stout, a 4.6% Irish
dry stout with oatmeal aspirations. This should pair wonderfully
with the brewpub's locally famous ale-marinated prime rib.
It's a great session stout — flavorful, robust and extremely
well balanced. Mike's current special was his first attempt
at a pilsner, and what an attempt it is — an imperial
Czech pils called "Czech Out Time." I personally
loved the "Poached Killer Shrimp," black tiger prawns
sautéed in garlic, shallots, tomatoes, herbs and India
Pale Ale, served with crostini bread. Of course, I had to
have a pint of Mike's IPA to go with it.
With a seating capacity of 183, there should not be a problem
when the newest campus of the University of California opens
in Merced in 2006. The Firehouse is not just a brewpub; there
is also a nightclub on the premises from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00
a.m. on Friday and Saturday where you can dance and mingle
with fellow revelers while drinking one of Mike's beers. Owner
Jason Vogel has done a great job of putting together a superb
combination of brewer and chef, and he has created an atmosphere
to make this a must-stop for any true beerophile traveling
the Central Valley.
560 W. 18th St.
Merced, CA 95340